BARCELONA 1 vs PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN 1
(3-3 on aggregate. Barcelona win on away goals)
FORWARD Lionel Messi came off the bench and produced a match-changing cameo to ensure Barcelona survived a scare in the Nou Camp and progressed to the Champions League semi-finals for the sixth consecutive season.
The Argentina star limped off with a hamstring injury in last week’s first leg in Paris, which finished 2-2 and was only fit enough to be named as a substitute last night.
But, after Javier Pastore shot the visitors ahead, Messi was introduced with less than half an hour remaining and played a pivotal role in setting up Pedro to level the tie and send Barcelona through on away goals.
And team-mate Gerard Pique paid tribute to Messi’s impact.
“It doesn’t matter if he is a little bit injured, he can change everything,” said the former Manchester United defender.
“We’re talking about the best player in the world. We knew that having him on the pitch would be important. He’s our reference. He can pass, he can score goals, he can do everything.
“This club has shown a lot of quality in the last few years and we deserve to be playing in the semi-finals again.”
After the first half finished goalless, with Barcelona looking desperately short of a cutting edge, PSG stunned the home supporters with a goal on the break five minutes into the second period when Zlatan Ibrahimovic teed up Pastore to clip the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
But just nine minutes after the introduction of Messi the tie swung in Barcelona’s favour.
The diminutive forward picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and beat two defenders before playing a defence-splitting pass through to David Villa who squared for Pedro to fire in on 71 minutes. Former England captain
David Beckham was used as an 83rd-minute substitute by PSG, but was unable to inspire any late heroics.
Meanwhile, in Italy, Bayern Munich cruised through to the last four with a 2-0 win against Juventus to progress 4-0 on aggregate.
The German champions took the lead when Mario Mandzukic headed in Bastian Schweinsteiger’s free-kick, before Claudio Pizarro struck late on.
Midfielder Arjen Robben hopes his team are not paired with fellow German club Borussia Dortmund in Friday’s semi-final draw, which also includes Real Madrid, and believes Bayern are capable of completing a treble of trophy wins.
“We’d like to be kept apart from Dortmund, but you don’t have a choice in these things,” said the former Chelsea winger.
“They are big games, the semi-finals, featuring four great teams and it’s nice to be there.
“We knew we had won the Bundesliga already, so now we can focus on the Champions League.
“We also have a German Cup semi-final coming up so we are in some big games.”